Let me not just talk principles here, because that would make it very abstract and pretty incomprehensible. Rather, let’s look at some actual reports (mostly from the last 24 hours) that may illustrate what kind of reporting I suggest that must be banned.
Barghouti urges Palestinian ‘civil disobedience’ on Nakba Day Why publish his message? People like President Trump won the election without paying for ads because the Free Press spread his propaganda. He only had to make it said offensive, and it spread like wildfire.
Osama bin Laden’s son calls for attacks on Jewish targets Why not just say that he made anti-Jewish remarks? There were even headlines that read that he calls upon lone wolfs to …. [I took out the incitement].
Rebuffing Netanyahu, Jordan says it opposes terrorism but still condemns killing of its Jerusalem stabber. Why publicize voices that approve of violence against Jews?
Also, it is unnecessary to write that the assailant tried to stab or actually stabbed the policeman. It’s enough to say that he tried to hurt a police officer and was killed. (Freedom of the Press does not demand publishing a manual how to kill people.) His name does not need to be made public either – what, to glorify the murderer? News outlets and individuals who do, should be taken off the air.
Statements that may invite copycat attacks, that make the threshold lower for another attack, that call for revenge or to perpetrate violence should not be published, period.
Dutch back Muslims as far-right MP vows to close mosques should only have reported that he made remarks antagonistic to Muslims in general.
Rabbi Levinstein going on leave from Eli academy has an OK heading but should just have mentioned that he keeps saying things that are insulting to homosexuals and women – not the actual bigotry word-for-word. Why do the spreading of filthy ideas for him?
German army punishes second soldier for far-right comments rightly so doesn’t state the verbal abuse, also inside the article, beyond a vague “racist attitudes, bullying and sexual abuse.” However, the report still goes wrong, in my opinion, when it quotes a certain group, supporting Arab Palestinian suicide attacks against Israel, calling them a legitimate form of “resistance.” It should just have mentioned that it fails to condemn anti-Israel terrorists.
Nonsense can be dangerous too. Like in this headline: Feelings are More Important Than Facts. This is baloney. Anger is not more important that the idea that one may not take the law into one’s own hands. To write something like this should be a criminal offense.
And maybe even this: Israel won’t commit suicide over US Embassy move, top lawmaker says should not be spread, because it does damage to Israel’s negotiating position with no none profiting. (Never mind that the leaking MK wants to warn the right-wing backers that they should not be upset if Netanyahu gave in here, so that a storm about it will be now and not during President Trump’s visit. It still undercuts the ability by the Israeli government to say to the US: don’t relent on moving your embassy because we don’t know if our administration would survive such a non-move.)
Similarly, we would like to tell our friends: Today I stopped someone telling a racist “joke.” You don’t want to add the “joke” to that.
- I can imagine the objection: The Press should be Free.
But there are already restrictions in place for stuff that the sensor suspects a danger to national of local security.
There are other constraints, sometimes court-ordered and sometimes voluntarily self-imposed by news outlets, like withholding names of survivors of sexual crimes.
- I can imagine the objection: Then who decides what is published and what not? It’s a slippery slope.
No, it isn’t. Racist parties are excluded in Israeli elections. That’s not a slippery slope.
- I can imagine the objection: But most “news” is transmitted through social media, from the Twitter account of the US President all the way down to Instagram posts by teenagers.
That must be stopped too. Social media should block the dirt, even if it comes from the top. BTW: “Journalist are the people’s worst enemy” should have been reported as: The President found it necessary to say something improper about the press.
- I can imagine the objection: How can you lay upon everyone and journalists in particular to stop spreading the above – who has experience, know-how, time and smartness enough to distinguish these things?
Well, when it comes to copyright or slander issues, journalists and news outlets are very careful, because it could cost them their jobs and millions of dollars. So can they be sensitive and sensible about the above too. (It could be, that first laws must be instated saying the above, to “motivate” them.) Everyone should be free to publish diatribes against such bills, but they should become law anyway.
NB: I’m NOT saying that critical news should be banned. Negative reporting is needed and very important to reign in scandals that in silence thrive – the more details the merrier.
But someone who is a danger to society, like a serial killer, is not let loose. This does not “infringe on his freedom,” because there is no freedom to murder.
Similarly, a call to be violent does not fall under freedom of speech. Rather, it is an attack on the free society, just like a racist candidate does not deserve to sit in parliament or government, or to spread his racist ideas.